“I have two distinct images of people playing cards, my college mates, smoking, downing beers and biryani, gambling behind their parent’s backs, in noisy laughter and talk. The other, soirées hosted on felted mahogany card tables, cigar-in the-mouth, suited gentlemen wafting trails of Old Spice and Tabac, and perfumed, chiffon clad, coiffured ladies, bidding in even tones, as gloved bearers, served delectable tea and refreshments on shining silverware.”

The difference, the college kids gambled mostly at teen patti and the la di dah elders played a game called Bridge.
Either way, my mother didn’t encourage my sister and me to play card games, what if the family we would marry into, considered playing cards, as gambling!

But last week, a friend invited me to learn the game online. For years I had looked at Hema Deora’s column, thinking how complicated bridge seemed and thus just avoided it. This invite came at a time when I have little or no pre-occupation, so a good time to put my brains to use. 
I am just two classes old as I write this, the terminology is challenging; NESW, bids, contract, declarer, dummy, tricks, NT’s and pass, a single, double and triple-ton, finesse, are some terms of play taught so far.
One thing is clear, You need to develop special skills in problem-solving to rise up to the challenges that this game of bridge presents! 
The first thing to understand is that you need to make quick decisions under pressure, where you have limited information, inference and probabilities. Unlike teen patti, where it’s really quick games of chance, alright, I grant some inference too, bridge is for those who take their time and want to solve puzzles or complex problems. You will have to improve your communication skills too because it’s a social game and you have to pass maximum information to your partner, the game is played with one, through encoded messages, by developing strategic moves against the opponents.

“And just because it’s cards it’s not gambling!
I was reading up on it when I chanced upon the article  “7 Reasons To Teach Your Kids Bridge” By Lisa Lewis Tyre.
I thought only retired people took to bridge! This article said ‘forget soccer games and violin lessons teach kids something really cool – Bridge’.”

1) It improves test scores
A researcher Dr Christopher Shaw, taught it to fifth graders and discovered that students who had learnt Bridge had a significant increase in certain test scores over those who hadn’t.
2 ) It boosts the immune system
Biologist Marion Diamond says there is “strong evidence that an area of the brain involved in playing bridge stimulates the immune system – in particular the thymus gland that produces white Blood cells called T cells or T lymphocytes.
3) It’s inexpensive
Of course! All you need is a pack of cards and three more players, if not in person, easily available online. Online and in-person classes are both not as expensive as tennis, soccer or piano.
4) You can play bridge forever and continue to improve as you age!
You really cannot jump those hurdles, play hockey, throwball, or even swim like when you were young. In Bridge, it seems your glory days are always ahead of you.
5) It’s mindful entertainment
‘Besides playing computer games, they use their brains, interact face-to-face with other kids, meet some folks from our greatest generation, and have fun! ‘ she says
6) It’s a career path
Like the article says, making it as a bridge professional may be tough but you can make a living out of it today.
7) It’s good clean fun
You can without any guilt, leave the kids to play the game whilst you play yours. Even at tournaments, they can feign a headache, they aren’t allowed to leave their seats.

Mother… you should’ve taught me bridge, I may have done better at school! Better late than never, I am learning to play now… I can already somewhat understand Hema Deora’s column, maybe someday I might just get to play a hand of bridge with her.

Neerja Shah

Former Publisher Editor of Elle India & TV Producer

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